Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ruff Hewn

Bulletproof. No other way to put it. These knit shirts were bulletproof. I have no clue who made them for the Ruff Hewn folks but I’ve never met another knit shirt with the staying power of these babies. I found this white one in the bottom of my wash-dry-fold trunk the other day and figured that since it was a hygiene holiday, a beat-up, rough Ruff Hewn would be an appropriate topper.
The balance of the hygiene holiday rig included, from my bedroom floor, a pair of Flusser top-pocket silk-linen-cotton boondoggle togs now approaching ten years old. They are though, young’uns compared to the Ruff Hewn knit. Unfortunately, the Hewn knit, in its dotage, can no longer manifest a popped collar. And Medicaid doesn’t reimburse for the necessary Pharma interventions to make it perky again. You want perky, you pay cash outta pocket.
And surely, why not add to the confusion by girding my former washboard abs with a Flusser blue ostrich o-ring strap.
I never bought a Ruff Hewn knit shirt in a retail store and certainly never bought one because of the logo. RHYC? The Ruff Hewn Yacht Club? Please. Even though my daddy, my gaindaddy, my gait gaindaddy and my gait-gait gaindaddy were all members, I chose long ago to use the Groucho Marx sieve for filtering my club options.
Reading Pennsylvania. My late 1980’s New Jersey cohorts and I would drive to the outlets in Reading on occasional Sundays. We’d pile in a car, usually not mine because a 1986 Jetta didn’t hold too many of our gang and I was usually too hunked-over from the previous evening’s, usually Gotham debauchery, to drive.We were mainly headed there to check out the Polo Ralph outlet and a couple of others but then we wandered into the Ruff Hewn store. None of us knew what it was. Some kind of J.Crew wannabe perhaps? 
And certainly they sold other things. Khakis, sweaters, button downs, rugby shirts. But none of it interested me or, as I recall, any of my posse. Quite frankly, the knit shirts wouldn't have interested me either. I was still wearing my Lacoste knits from college—at least the ones that were holding up ok and immutably by this time, the Polo Ralph knit was standard fare.
But they were ten bucks each. “Small imperfections” they said. I never found any to speak of and if I did, they weren’t deal breakers. Nobody had any idea how long they’d last and who cared at two fins a throw? Made in the U.S.A. to boot.
So at one point we all had a pile of these knit shirts in an array of colors. Here’s one of my other N.J. corporate indentured servant minions, JBA (R.I.P.) sporting one of the Ruffs at a company boondoggle on Marco Island. I have no idea what kind of rig I had on that evening. The allsiest thing I know is that I’d been on the beach for eight hours. I traipsed in and showered and throwed on a cotton sweater ‘cause I was late for the cocktail thing. And I do recall that this was my Drambuie Phase. Dig the watch. It’s my Patek Pho-cheap. Undoubtedly from somewhere on Canal Street. Shut up. I was twenty nine years old. Buck up and show us some of your twenty nine year old mélange.
Fast forward a few years and I ended up in Washington D.C. So did my New Jersey corporate indentured servant wingman JTS. And JTS, his wife AES and I discovered the Blue Ridge Outlets in Martinsburg West Virginia; about as equidistant as our old Montclair NJ…Reading Pa outlet jaunt was from previous years. So once again we had a Ruff Hewn source. But the arrogant mugwumps now had the audacity to charge about fifteen dollars a throw for them.
I might have shared before what a loyal friend JTS is to me. The effer called me every day during the darkest moments of my divorce process. Not to engage me in any kind of maudlin esoteric examination of my purpose for living and to recommend a couple of self-pity maintenance books. Nope. The phone calls went like this… “Ok you little shit, bathe AND shave. Go to the office…DO NOT sit your sorry ass at home in your robe. EAT …and why not make it a greasy burger for lunch at the deli on Washington Street. I’ll pick you up from your office at 530 and we’ll go eat again. Now kiss my as_ and stop crying.” Folks, friends like that are the ones you need in moments of inflection. You can find plenty of the other type who, in their unwitting way, will jump in your  hot tub of pity and splash around with you till your fingers, toes and gumption are more than pruny. But not my man JTS. I’m forever in his debt.
JTS is a UVA man and when he and I got promoted and ended up in DC we inevitably found ourselves in the Charlottesville realm for fun and frolic. Here above is my man JTS and little ole Ruff Hewn wearin’ ADG at some Point-to-Point or Steeplechase thang near Charlottesville. I don’t remember too much about this event but I do recall that the tittie-twister that JTS just exacted on me is the reason why in this picture, I’m howling. And the other thing I recall from that day-evening is that the County Sheriffs who were lording over this event use those same little zip-tie plastic handcuffs that the Ocean Drive S.C. beach cops used on me in college. Oh, and one other thing, don’t do tittie-twisters on anyone. They hurt like hell and can cause cancer.
So fast forward these twenty-plus years and I’ve blown through a lot of things. Money, marriage, cars, clothes, collectibles and friends. There’s been a lot of churn in my previous few decades and most of it good. But for some odd reason, two Ruff Hewn knits remain with me. The proverbial “if they could talk” speculation is beyond my comprehension today so I’ll just close this ramble…swathed in the other remnant of a two-decade run. Another survivor of the churn…my navy blue Hewn.

Onward. Ruffly. ADG II

16 comments:

SouthernProletariat said...

Prediction: One day that beautiful, curly haired daughter of yours will "borrow" these....

Anonymous said...

They also made some khakis in something called "fire hose canvas" that was pretty impressive. I had a pair that I tried to diet into for a while. I think it is a lot like one of the wider, wilder Orvis weaves. Since I never could lose those pounds, I can't tell you how they lasted. As I remember, they eventually came up with a really silly "back story" about Lord Ruffin Hewn or some such shite.

Spare Us.

But the shirts seem to have been pretty good. Since I, ah, have the floor, I will say that I have been home with the communications wiring guys and over in the corner, where the one rotary phone hooks up, I found my own little 90s madeleine, in the form of a whole box of Smart Ass White Boy SPY magazines. Too bad there is no Smart Ass Old Man category, much less a magazine for us...

cousin willie, tryin not to talk about the Wowuh, on Confederate Memorial Day.

ADG said...

SouthernProle...I sure hope so!

WillieCuz.... Secede! Secede! Secede! (damn, I forgot that I was at work, NOT at Old South at the Myrtle Beach Hilton) Had I known that the Hewnsters had a trouser out back then that touted hose restraining caliber strength, I coulda used it. Back then. Nowadays I'm looking more for trouser attributes that purport performance characteristics like "absorbent". Ahhh...the fire hose days.

DocP said...

My father had a collection of those shirts. We always joked that they were from the "Royal Hawaiian Yacht Club". My brother inherited them with my father's death 8 years ago. I think he still wears them.

Anonymous said...

Had several of those shirts, purchased soley on price (don't I tell my clients not to do that?) always at an outlet, come to think of it not sure I ever saw them anywhere else.
RTS

Tammy B said...

I still have a couple of Ruff Hewn skirts that have lasted for many years. I can't wear the denim skirt anymore since a certain religious group has started wearing them since they don't wear slacks.

Anonymous said...

oh, the glorious ruff hewn. we sold them at harold's old school (preppy shop out of oklahoma with outlets in a few states- one is still in tysons II). they were...bullet proof. marvelous quality. i loved thier products. that shirt lasted for nearly 20 years until i lost it...well, my brother borrowed and never returned it.

NCJack said...

Chances are good that shirt was made, or at the least the cloth woven, within a 50 mile radius of Charlotte.

I'm not sure if there are even 1000 textile jobs left in that same radius these days...maybe not even half that. But it's okay, the big banks have started their bonus programs back up

Flo said...

This is the first full open mouth toothy grin photo I've ever seen of you, Max. You're smile is adorable, more please!

Summer is a Verb said...

I had a late 80's Jetta too! Tennis white just like my new whip. I did not, however, ever tread into Ruff Hewn waters. I always thought that was one of Ralph's mall brands. Ya know, for the hoi polloi. And, the C'ville steeplechase event was prob Foxfields where zip-ties and Ruff Hewn beer goggles are still all the rage...XXOO

ps...ya know I love ya, sub par polos and all :)

Renée Finberg said...

i love how you speak of your dear friend...
lucky, lucky guy to recognize and put value on what really matters!

ADG said...

Flo...I replied to your comment but then Blogger blew up and I got hacked and lost two posts as well as comments. There exists no open mouthed toothy grins anymore. I've had too much jaw/mouth recons. to trifle with opening my mouth anymore.

AllieVonNameBrand....stop hatin' Ruff Hewn.

Mike said...

Ruff Hewn made their own clothes in North Carolina. It was family owned and operated until the lead partner died unexpectedly, then the brand was sold off and it went down hill from there. Some members of the original family that owned the brand, the Rives family, are involved with a new green brand of clothing that offer some of the same quality and durability of the original Ruff Hewn brand.

Harden Rives said...

Hi there!
I came across your blog and noticed your posting about the Ruff Hewn shirts. My father, Warren Rives, was the owner of Ruff Hewn before his death in 1990. I never met him as I was just an infant at the time, but it is so awesome to find people today who still love his product! I wish we knew how to re-create those shirts. They are the best!

All the Best,

Harden Rives

ADG said...

Harden...thanks for your comment. I'm sorry that you didn't know your dad but I'm pleased that his legacy lives on in tattered, popped collared shirts in my dresser drawer!

Anonymous said...

I am looking to bring that shirt back. Are there any shirt buyers out there that would want it? No logo....

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